Doobie Brothers- Toulouse Street- Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons, John Hartman

After a forgettable first album, the Doobie Brothers’ sophomore effort Toulouse Street  may just be the strongest second act of the Seventies. So remarkable a turnaround in songs, sound, and good fortune is the July 1972 release that even some longtime Doobie Brothers fans still mistakenly refer to Toulouse Street  as the band’s first album. 

Formed in San Jose California, the original songs were a musical gumbo consisting of a balanced blend of distinctly American styles, including country blues, horn-punctuated Stax soul, acoustic folk, and chugging rock and roll, while the choices of outside material by the Doobie Brothers to cover on Toulouse Street were a colorful mosaic, running the gamut from Sonny Boy Williamson to Seals and Crofts. There’s “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, for half a century an invitation to dashboard abandon and speeding tickets everywhere; the definitive version of “Jesus is Just All Right”; and the flat-out rocker buried deep at the dark end of Toulouse Street, “Disciple”.

Growing up in Visalia in Central California before attending college in San Jose, Doobie Brothers singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Johnston points out that the album is named after an actual thoroughfare in New Orleans’ French Quarter, literally 2000 miles and culturally a world away from Northern California. Yet Johnston, singer/songwriter/guitarist Pat Simmons, and  tandem drummer John Hartman do not deny that the Doobies incorporated many aspects of the imagery and instrumentation of the Deep South. Case in point: even though “Listen to the Music” was one of the songs which defined Top 40 radio that Summer 1972, it wasn’t until the digital age of music remastering that we can now hear, on the choruses, Pat Simmons’ finger-picked banjo!

By the way, after the long-suffering band was denied even so much as a nomination for twenty-four years, the Doobie Brothers were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020, and  toured to mark both the band’s COVID-delayed fiftieth anniversary as well as the golden anniversary of Toulouse Street .-Redbeard